I simply shock my head when the Army’s PEO Soldier program sank all eight Individual Carbine entrants. I suspect many (or more likely, all) of the submitted rifles were a dramatic improvement over the existing M4 carbine, even those that were merely a piston upgrade on a M4 lower.
It now looks like the Army faces possible protests over how they conducted the tests (the exact nature of the protests is still a bit murky), which also switched from M855 ammo to M855A1 “Enhanced Performance” ammo.
The thing is, no matter how great the M4′s replacement is, it will not be appreciably more effective downrange without switching to a larger cartridge. The 6×45, 6.5 Grendel, and 6.8 SPC are all dramatic improvements over the 5.56 NATO, and there are doubtlessly other candidates to chose from. While the military insists on sticking with a .22-caliber cartridge they simply aren’t going to find a significant increased in battlefield effectiveness on human targets, no matter what carbine they field. I personally think the 6.5 Grendel offers the best on-paper performance gains—its better ballistic coefficients mean better long range performance than the 5.56 NATO, 6×45, 6.8 SPC, and 7.62 NATO—but there are no doubt other factors I haven’t considered that the Army’s experts will (like how offers the best quid pro quo and untraceable corruption options).
The U.S. military has a long history of providing our soldiers with substandard small arms, with the M1 Garand being the most notable exception to that history. For once in my lifetime, I’d like to see those defending our freedom have the best rifle and cartridge that the arsenal of freedom can develop.